When a new employee is hired at Watermark, just like at many other companies, that employee goes through an orientation. You are shown the closet where paper clips and file folders are kept, taught how to make a pot of coffee, and introduced to Duncan, publisher Tom Dyer’s kind-eyed Corgi. But Watermark employees then go through a slightly unusual ritual: they are told the history of the company.
Like many newspapers, Watermark’s roots are actually grassroots, stemming from the concrete realization that the LGBT communities in Orlando and Tampa Bay were underrepresented in the local media. It’s important for new employees to understand why the company exists, because that “why” guides everything we do here, from editorial decisions to ad placement strategies. To put it quite simply, the local LGBT community is a real and present entity, and Watermark was created to recognize and support its existence by telling the community’s stories, marketing the community’s businesses and connecting the community’s members with each other.
As a result, every two weeks for the past 15 years, Watermark has published news and information central to that community. Every two weeks, our readers have known they can stroll by one of our hundreds of distribution sites and pick up a copy. Every two weeks, they’ve found a fresh paper filled with content that matters to them.
I was hired to change all of that.
Today marks the re-launch of WatermarkOnline.com, the new, interactive incarnation of our website. Most—but not all—of the content from the paper’s print version will be available online, plus a lot more. Among the dozens of new features, site members will find breaking news, daily blog updates, entire albums of Shot on Site photos, an extensive community resources guide and our new Purple Pages LGBT-friendly business directory. Our motto? Start here!… for news, profiles, resources, entertainment, and just to kill a little time.
Many might assume the re-imagining of the site is in response to what most of us already know; that newspapers are being challenged to remain useful and relevant in the current media landscape. However, because of the specialized needs and concerns of our primary target audience, we believe the print version of Watermark still brings value to our readers, and will continue to do so for a long time.
The website makeover stems from a desire to enhance that value. Because there are far fewer space and time constraints online, Watermark now has the opportunity to expand our coverage, the freedom to experiment with content, and the ability to offer new stuff every day. And most importantly, thanks to the commenting features, we can have a conversation about what we’re reading, seeing and thinking.
We hope you’ll head over to WatermarkOnline.com, poke around the site, and introduce yourself.
Here, I’ll start.
My name is Jamie Hyman and I am Watermark’s Online Editor. I’ve been working in news and media for more than a decade, starting when I graduated from Ohio University with a degree in broadcast journalism. My career took me to Florida’s Upper Keys shortly after that, and since then I’ve ‘accidentally’ worked my way up the state to Miami, then Fort Lauderdale and now Orlando. My introduction to LGBT-specific media came when I was hired to edit and write for two publications based out of Wilton Manors. I couldn’t believe my luck when I came across the Watermark job listing.
I’ve been here for several weeks, working with a web developer and our current staff to get the site ready for today. Every single time we have a meeting or a discussion about what I’m doing, someone makes the same point: this is not a project, it’s a process. There will be mistakes. We’ll change our minds. At some point, Jamie will break the whole damn site.
WatermarkOnline.com is—and for a long time, will continue to be—a work in progress. The good news is that makes us flexible and invested in using your ideas to ensure that WatermarkOnline.com is your first (or last) stop, every day.
By the way, it’s no accident that we’re launching just in time for Gay Days Weekend. Be sure to visit every day to check out new photos, videos and party coverage. If you can’t make it to the festivities, you’ll be able to hang out from afar. Those attending can look for photos of themselves, read about the previous night’s hot parties, and make future plans.
See you online!